Recently, I have run into several first-time clients that I am assisting with permit modifications and renewals. Over 13 years of air permitting in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky, I have seen errors in permits that have strongly negative impacts on manufacturers that were erroneously placed on a source by a regulating agency.
It is the source’s (manufacturer’s) ultimate responsibility to review their own permit draft even if a consultant is assisting them. However, many times the source says they rely on their consultant and the failure to review a permit draft comes back to hurt them. Let me give you a few examples…
One Illinois source was listed as a Title V PSD source and was in an enforcement case. I was asked questions during a Phase I with limited compliance about what their current air permit would allow them to do production-wise. Having dealt with permitting issues where bottle necking and debottle necking can drastically change an air permit, I asked basic production questions. Within 30 minutes, I determined that the source should be a Lifetime Operating Permit (LTOP) level and IEPA later concurred. Besides avoidance of overstated permitting fees, annual emission fees, and future consultant fees, a good permit review also would have lowered their fines.
Another example in Indiana… a source submitted accurate calculations on a permit modification adding another piece of equipment. However, when the permit and technical source document (TSD) were drafted, the permit was accurate, but the TSD was not. The permit had a pound/hour emission limit that equated to 18 tons/year of particulate matter (PM, PM10, PM2.5). The TSD had an annual emission limit of < 0.1 ton per year. This discrepancy occurred because no review of the draft application resulted from this permitting action and the permit became effective. So, although the TSD isn’t ‘binding’ as per Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Office of Air Quality (IDEM, OAQ), the source had a federally enforceable emission limit drastically reduced in their permit documents. If an inspector were to examine the permit documents, he/she would most likely catch the emission unit Potential to Emit (PTE) of a few hundred pounds per year, see a stack test result in pound/hour, do the math for 8760 hours per year, and potentially raise questions pertaining to an enforcement case if the source couldn’t explain it. The source is then forced to submit an administrative amendment to correct the inconsistency. I will tell you that the source was greatly alarmed after I caught the error as they understood the possible ramifications of the inconsistency. Although this ‘very small and non-binding’ error was caught and fixed, can you imagine the ripple effect? If Corporate Environmental has to get involved, the political ramifications are too numerous to mention.
So, a simple, thorough review of your air permit draft before it goes final during a permitting action can save you headaches, money, and environmental metrics.